Archives for March 2017

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair 2017

While the Houston area may boast several events for wine and food enthusiast, the ultimate food and wine celebration in Houston is the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.  Over the past 6 years Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has been raising the bar on the culinary standards in the city with a decadent celebration of food, wine and spirits in a collaboration that is truly unforgettable.  This year the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is making some exciting changes to the mix to not only showcase some of the best food Houston has to offers and the top tier of wine and spirits from around the world.  Attendees win as the festival gives you an insider’s glimpse that will take your knowledge and appreciation to the next level.

In lieu of some of introductory events the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair will take on the road as teacher as it showcases food and wine in a more intimate setting.  In order to provide the perfect setting the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge has been replaced with private dinners to kick off the weekend festivities.  Choosing either the Boiling Point seafood boil or The Italian Invasion Dinner guests can mix great food and wine with intimate company and some great insight as they enjoy their favorites or try something new.  Additionally the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has added several learning experiences that guest can attend Friday and Saturday.  There is nothing like identifying the why of your love for some of your favorite flavor profiles.  Taking the time to get deeper into the educational side only strengthens your appreciation for your favs and gives you clues on how to find other top picks based on your own palette.

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair made sure not to mess with the best, with their program changes, and Friday nights Grand Tasting is sure to be one for the books.  The Sugar Land Marriott Town Square serves as the perfect location to meet food and wine nirvana.  With everything from inventive culinary creations (I still dream about the upscale Frito pie) and tried and true favorites from HEB and local restaurant superstars the event provides a something for everyone in an unforgettable night.

Other favorites, such as Saturdays Sip and Stroll will keep more recent location changes, now done at Constellation Field but enhanced it with a two day option so you have all of Saturday and Sunday to get a chance to grab your favorite bites and beverages while enjoying some of the great performers who always deliver during the event. As the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair promises more of the core that has built its following as well as some great new opportunities to appreciate the food and wine on a different level this event is going to be a must on any food and wine lover’s schedule.

Closing out Tokyo by honoring history

Japan is a very eclectic mix of old and new, but on my last day I had to dive into some of the history that makes Japan unforgettable with a visit to their Imperial Gardens and Samurai Museum. A last day on any trip can feel a little overwhelming as you sort through things missed and those you can’t miss.  My last day I decided to split between something important to me and something important to my daughter.  Frist stop was the Imperial Gardens as they were within walking distance from my hotel.

One of my main priorities in choosing Tokyo as a destination was just to relax and find a space to clear my head after dealing with a personal loss. While Japan overflows with beautiful gardens, something about the regal nature of the Imperial Gardens called to me and we off set to explore the grounds.  With several entrances to the Gardens make sure to get a clear idea on where you want your access point to me.  The Gardens are divided into a ground level portion and a different section on a steep incline.  If you go to the wrong entrance you have a steep hick ahead of you.

The Gardens offered me just what I was looking for, a serene place where you can sit back and enjoy nature.  Part of why this is such a tourist destination is how the Japanese make serenity an art, carefully plotting out waterfalls, coy ponds, bridges and monuments to give you an opportunity to carefully observe and appreciate the thoughtfulness of design.  Serving a delicate balance of nature and how human artistry can work to enhance, not take away from the beauty of nature.  With my mind feeling calm it was time to hop to my daughter’s top pick, the Samurai Museum.

Just as it sounds the Samurai Museum is an ode to the discipline, culture, and exquisiteness of the Samurai culture. The museum offers English tours of everything from the dress to a history of their battle skills and rise and fall of the samurai culture.  There is something quite special about an interactive museum as it gets you a chance to not only learn more about a culture you admire but to take a small step in their footsteps to see just how amazing their life and devotion to their craft were.  Perhaps it was all the karate movies my daughter watched her whole life but this tour gave her life.  Add in the opportunity to try on a Samurai outfit and hold a sword and this was one of the highlights of her trip.  Make sure to plan extra time for the tour as they have daily Samurai fighting exhibition that we had to miss to make a break for the airport.  All of the fun new culture Japan offers have a distinct line to their proud and innovative past that demands some reverence to their beautiful history.

 

Tips for staying above the travel transportation learning curve

On my most recent trip to Japan I was reminded of the importance of staying on your p’s and q’s to move around a new city as you learn the landscape.  It’s easy to have expectations that things should just work out our way while putting little time and attention into how this will actually happen.  Traveling in Japan, for instance, with all of the English accommodations, you can easily forget the importance of knowing some words or phrases in Japanese in order to ensure you can smoothly move around.  As I tackled hailing a cab from the Tokyo Tower and hopped in a cab where the driver spoke no English that lead to Battle Royale when it was time to pay I was reminded of some simple tips that would have made the night a lot smoother

Take notes on landmarks and directions – It is no fun being lost in a strange city.  Don’t’ assume everyone will have an idea of your destination.  If you are leaving your hotel take note of important physical markers that can assist others helping you find your way back home.

Your phone can be a resource even without service or data – International service can be very expensive with iffy coverage at best.  This doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone.  The voice recorder is a great way to provide information in a different language to others.  Also, have your hotel concierge record the name and directions to your hotel in the language of the country you are in or take a picture of a map directing others to its locations are great tools for finding your way back.

Ask questions before committing to a service – Transportation in other countries is notoriously a mix bag depending on the city and the particular driver you get.  I learned in Italy pretty quickly that cab prices can be high and can be low but asking before you take off prevents you from getting locked into a war of words where neith3er party knows what the other is saying.  Asking ahead gives you leverage to negotiate or find some alternatives if you can’t agree.  If you want to use a comfort from home, check ahead if options such as Uber are available where you are internationally. 

Use your other experiences to increase your travel savvy – I was never so happy to have a New Yorker for a college roommate than when I had a cab driver attempt to overcharge me in Japan.  As soon we took off I saw he neither knew where he was going, nor what I was saying and was too stubborn to do anything about either problem.  So when he tried to triple the charge for my return trip than I paid for my arrival it was on.  Learning not to let people take advantage of you prevents you from becoming a walking doormat internationally.  I quickly pulled out my New York negotiation skills and the haggling began.  AT the end of it I had to hop out a cab but maybe a lesson will be learned about playing black women in cabs by this cab driver.

Be diverse in your back up plans – From addresses written in foreign languages to maps to asking your hotel for an international contact you have to plan for all the things that can go wrong while still being light on your feet.  I always grab a map at my hotel and ask for details on the area that I am staying in.  Your concierge is there for a reason so take a moment to discover what a local would know about your location as the small things may be important later when you are out about exploring away from the welcoming staff at your hotel.